Planting ideas for a vibrant spring

By Timothy Higgins
Observer correspondent

Temperatures may be dropping and snow has already landed on the ground, but Williston in Bloom is running full steam ahead and already gearing up for the sunny days waiting at the end of winter.

Williston in Bloom is a local effort to improve quality of life in town by undertaking a variety of beautification programs.

“We are a group of volunteers who plant flowerbeds around the town,” said Williston in Bloom Committee Co-chairwoman Sue Stanne.

After meeting last week, the group is considering introducing a new type of flowerbed to the town – rain gardens.

“We were contacted by Jessica Andreoletti (of the Winooski Natural Resources Conservation District) and Emma Melvin (of the University of Vermont) to play a part in the Rivers Rain Garden project,” Stanne said.

A rain garden is a planted depression designed to absorb rainwater runoff from impervious areas including roofs, driveways and walkways. The gardens allow storm water to soak into the ground instead of flowing into storm drains or causing erosion and water pollution as surface water. Rain gardens can cut down on the amount of pollution reaching creeks and streams by up to 30 percent.

Andreoletti, resource/assistant manager of the Conservation District, said, “It is important to get the word out and educate the public about rain gardens. Our goal is to get one rain garden in every town in Chittenden County in 2008.”

Although not committed yet, the Williston in Bloom committee is interested in participating.

“We hope to hold training sessions and workshops with the Williston residents on the construction of rain gardens, possibly in February or March,” Stanne stated. “This is in the very early planning stages but we are very excited about it.”

A history of beautification

Neil Boyden, Williston Public Works director and a member of Williston in Bloom, said the program has been going on for five or six years.

“We design, maintain and plant areas around town where there are flowers,” Boyden stated.

Williston in Bloom has planted around town buildings and along roads such as Route 2 in the Village, along the bike path and around the bandstand.

“This fall we planted 1,400 daffodil bulbs in and around the area of the town hall,” Stanne said.

In addition to town beautification projects, Williston in Bloom works with the University of Vermont Master Gardeners extension program to participate in the Plant a Row for the Hungry project, which provides food to the Hinesburg Food Shelf and Chittenden County Emergency Food Shelf. Several Williston in Bloom members are also Master Gardeners.

The town chips in as well, donating an area of the Williston community garden.

Williston in Bloom also sponsors a garden contest for residents, which is judged by the committee in several categories. Winners are announced in September and an awards ceremony is held in March. Contest applications are available online at and distributed at public facilities around town.

A rain garden category could become a new feature of the contest next year.

Stanne chairs the committee with Joan Fox-Cota. Boyden, June Jones, Al Ligouri, Oliver Gardner, Ruth Painter, Nancy Hulett, Mike Jones and Kim Richburg serve as committee members.

“We presented a PowerPoint presentation to the Selectboard a few months ago and they really enjoyed it,” Stanne said. “They thanked us for making the town look pretty.”

Anyone interested in participating in Williston in Bloom can contact Neil Boyden at 878-1239 or any of the other committee members.

The town contributes $3,000 to the group’s $8,000 budget, but Williston in Bloom typically funds the remainder with donations. Tax-deductible donations can be sent to the WIB Committee, 7900 Williston Road, Williston, Vt. 05495.